I shuffled through the pile of mail – the usual biodegradable white noise – that was to be skimmed and then promptly discarded. I paused. An unexpected, tiny piece of artwork was tucked in amongst the bills and advertisements. Elegant swirls applied by pen, not laser jet, adorned a simple beige envelope. A ragged-edged picture of hydrangeas had been carefully selected from a magazine and glued onto the envelope’s bottom right corner. It was underscored with words from Emily Dickinson. Words scribed from a lilac fine-tipped marker. After considering (then dismissing) my to-do list, I carried the unopened letter and a hot cup of tea to my “reading chair” in the living room. Far more than only correspondence, the letter had been written with great care and thoughtfulness. It deserved my full attention.
Sometimes the Maker reaches down and kisses us with the flaming red leaves of autumn, the earthy breath of a puppy, or the tranquil sound of Bach being played on the cello. That particular afternoon, our Creator whispered to me through a lovingly-crafted, handwritten letter from a friend.
We owe much to the handwritten letter.
For example, if there had been no letters:
~ We would know very little about the heart, mind, and art of Vincent Van Gogh.
~ A substantial portion of Scripture would be absent.
~ We may have only a fraction of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. The relationship with her mentor grew from a series of letters written between the two, the first in which she was inquiring, “Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive?”
What life and hope is awaiting to be shared through a letter that’s yet to be written?
The art of letter writing isn’t lost – it simply awaits rediscovery. What a gift we can give our children by inviting them to value the handwritten letter.
I had the great privilege of spending an afternoon exploring the art of letter writing with a group of bright-eyed girls. We turned cigar boxes into stationary boxes. We created personalized stamps to be used for wax seals (“I just read about sealed letters in a book about Harriet Tubman,” chirped an eleven-year-old). We copied templates to be used for creating envelopes out of craft paper, magazine pages, or scraps of wrapping paper. A proper set of (beautiful) tools inspires creation.
Consider inviting the children in your life to spend an afternoon playing in the playground of letter writing. Pull out the paper and markers, old magazines and glue, and whatever else would be fun to incorporate. They won’t only be writing letters – they’ll be developing the habit of using creativity to bless others.
In addition to friends and family members, try writing to:
~ The author of a favorite book. It will be an encouragement to author, and your child will become more deeply invested in his own personal library.
~ A missionary, local political leader, librarian, policeman, mailman, or anyone else who lives a life of service. Our children will grow in gratitude.
~ A pen-pal. If you’re child doesn’t have one, find one. The reciprocal nature of the pen-pal relationship keeps the excitement of giving (and receiving) a letter alive.
When we take the time to put pen to paper, to share words that connect and bless, we partake in the celebration of what it means to be human. And we invite another to join us.
The Way I read a Letter’s – this –
‘Tis first – I lock the Door –
And push it with my fingers – next –
For transport it be sure –
And then I go the furthest off
To counteract a knock –
Then draw my little Letter forth
And slowly pick the Lock –
Letterly books that you may enjoy:
Letters to the World by Emily Dickinson
Letters to Children from Beatrix Potter by Judy Taylor
Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
Letters to Children by C.S. Lewis
A few snippets from our letterly afternoon: